Saturday, June 11, 2016

I can't be strong all the time, sometimes I do break....but I'm not fragile

I am an autistic child's mother.
Most days it's just a diagnosis, something I know is there but not life shattering.Some days it's something I think about in passing, like yesterday's weather.But today?Today is a day I'd sell my soul to make it all go away. Today is a day that I sit in my car and cry because there's no one around me that gets it.I love the people in our life, and they're all understanding and supportive, but they don't share our path in this life.Today is a day I break. Today I am raw. Today I hate all the acronyms. I hate others with "normal" kids, who get the "easy" path through life. Today I am angry that my son is the "1 out of X boys" (who is on the autism spectrum). Today I'm failing. I have to be because he is trying so hard and still not making enough progress, according to education directors. Academically he's fine, he's better than fine even. Socially he's behind. He talks too much, moves too much, knows his limits too well. "He's not ready", I heard. I never let him know I cry about him.My child has his own struggles, I don't want to add to his heavy burden. I'm the mother, he needs me to be strong and tell him everything is fine. But today, it's not fine. I'm not fine. This is the face of the mother of an autistic child.I'm broken, he's perfect.

  Last week I had a bad day. The kind of bad day that saw me crying in my car, wishing life were just  a little easier, a little more fair and me a little less failing at it.
    I ended up taking a selfie and posting about it, hoping someone else might feel the same way and realize they weren't alone. It started when Nixon had an in-class shadow day at the school he would be potentially attending in the fall. His current class is only for kindergarten and first graders, which means a new school for him in the fall. Nixon attended the day and when I picked him up I had a meeting with the director of the new program. It basically boiled down to the program and Nixon not being a good fit. I took it harder than Nixon did. He was mostly upset because he thinks 2 of his friends are going to that school and he wanted to go there with them. 
   We had another in-take interview on Monday. Nixon has another in-class shadow day on Tuesday the 14th. Even though this school is in Baltimore and would mean a much longer bus ride for him daily, the school is a better fit. It's not just academic based, it's also social skills and play based. While Nixon wouldn't be around general education peers, he'll be in a setting in which he wouldn't be seen as a distraction.
  Let me just say this, about the first school Nixon visited: When a special education program tells a parent that their child is a distraction to the rest of the class, which is also a special education class, it's probably not a good fit. While this school aims at integrating special education students into general education classrooms, it felt like they want too much from children already trying too hard to handle school. A child who is participating and trying to be a part of the classroom, perhaps being too excited and too loud or impatient, shouldn't be automatically dubbed a "distraction to the other students". (Nixon was shadowing a 2nd grade classroom, so the work is an entire year beyond him. He did try to be included in the class and did contribute during math and vocabulary. He fell asleep during the reading time mostly because he was only listening and he was trying to sit still like he was asked too.)   

   Most of the time, I can "forget" Nixon has autism. It's just a couple quirks we've accepted. But days like last week make me weak. I cried, I gave into the sadness. I took time to mourn the picture I had of what 2nd grade would be like for Nixon. 
   Then I put on my big girl pants and moved on. Nixon came home from school. We talked about his day and we laughed at birds outside. 
    I don't break as often as I used too. I'm not one big raw nerve walking around anymore. Now, when I breakdown it's because I need to get it out. I'm not ignoring my emotions or trying to force myself to be "okay". 

   I'm not perfect, but I'm not as broken as I used to be. 


Monday, February 29, 2016

Mom with a side of anxiety

   Last year, I was diagnosed with social anxiety and depression. I was seeing a therapist and put on medications. Christmas was rough, I started having panic attacks in public settings. I had at least 4-5 in a span of two weeks. I went back to my doctor, had a dosage adjustment and have only had one panic attack in six weeks.

    I took a big step and landed a part-time job. I started last week. It's a great fit for me, even with my social anxiety. I'm working in the warehouse of the local comic book store we frequent. I spend a large majority of my time alone. and I couldn't be more comfortable with that. I have tasks to accomplish and focus on and just keep going. I can not tell you how wonderful it is to be working again! And, thanks to the owners and managers of the store, I'm working around Mac's schedule. I could not have asked for a more awesome group of people to call co-workers!

    Everything sounds like it's going great for me, right? Honestly it's as close to perfect as I can get. Until the last 2 days. Friday night I forgot to refill one of my medications. I had plans to do it Saturday, but forgot. I finally refilled it yesterday. Saturday night I had one of my all-too familiar anxiety fueled dreams. The most awful part of these types of dreams is that, even after I wake up I still feel stuck in the dream. I don't shake the emotions the dreams bring up, even after I'm awake. I feel like I'm in a fog the whole day. I try my best to "power thru" the day, but it's not always possible.
   This morning was worse. Even though I had taken my medications last night, I fought for sleep until after 2:30am only to be tormented by more anxiety fueled dreams with a side of near panic-inducing nightmares. I woke up so anxious I couldn't take being touched///not even by Nixon. These are the days I HATE anxiety! Nixon is the most affectionate child, always giving hugs and telling us "I love you". It hurts when I have to tell him I can't be touched right now. This morning, a hug from Nixon made me feel like I was going to jump out of my skin and scream! Mac tried comforting with a simple hand on my shoulder and I nearly lost it.
    Skipping a day or two of my medications is not something I do regularly. In fact, I usually refill a week in advance to avoid a gap in dosages, but shit happens. Now I'm trying to get back on track and not let these demons dwelling in my head win.

    I didn't feel like writing this post. Mac suggested it. Sometimes he has a good idea. I'm glad I wrote this, because for every good day I have it gets easier to think I'm "cured". Days like today remind me of how far I've come and how quickly I could regress if I fail to take my medications. I don't want to be on meds forever, but this was an unexpected affirmation that for now, I still need them.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A sliver of light peeks through the darkness

    I've mentioned in recent posts, that I've been in a low and kind of ugly place. I haven't realized how low I was until I found a small ray of light. Not literal light, more like emotional and mental light. I don't even know what changed last week, but something just kind of gave.
   It started when I called on Monday to get an appointment with a shrink. I'm going to call again tomorrow because I still haven't gotten an appointment. After that call, I scheduled an eye exam. And since I felt like I was on a roll, I made an appointment with the tattoo artist a friend recommended. The appointment for a consult was made for Friday.
   I was feeling pretty fucking accomplished.
   A couple days later, my 2 best friends and I collaborated on a tattoo the 3 of us agreed on getting. It's beautiful, signifies each of us and the struggled we've faced/overcome together. Since it was fully designed, in an hour messaging session (thank you Facebook Messenger!), I printed the idea to bring with me Friday.

   Friday I forced Mac to go with me to the tattoo shop. I was freaking out about meeting someone new and having serious anxiety that he'd judge me and my tattoo idea, and even worried he'd laugh at me when I showed him where I wanted the tattoo. I didn't explain all this to Mac, instead I pretty much said he should come with me and support me because I support him...and doesn't he want to spend time with me? He agreed to go, probably to end my whining and ranting, but said he was packing his backpack with electronics.
    He came with me and the tattoo artist was amazing! I ended up getting the small tattoo my best friends and I design and made an appointment for the other tattoo I want.

   Last night, out of nowhere, I decided to try crocheting again. I'm in the infant stage of learning to crochet, I'm barely able to do more than the basic chain stitch. Putting my lack of skills aside, I was determined to practice. And practice I did. I finally got the tension right, the stitching right and I made something that looked awesome. Except it wasn't meant to be more than a practice thing, so I didn't really make anything. I tried turning it into a cape for my cat, bu she hated it and refused to wear it. She's so ungrateful!

    This morning I woke up and felt a need to go buy more yarn, because I had projects in my head and since I know myself, if I didn't start them now I'd forget about them and possibly forget how to crochet all together. That might be my anxiety talking, I don't think I'd really forget how to crochet overnight...but why take the chance!
    As I was driving to the fabric store today, I realized: I'm happy! I genuinely feel good. But then I realized, I didn't know I felt bad. Maybe bad is the wrong word. I didn't realize I wasn't feeling anything before today.
    I chose my yarn, came home and started my projects. As I did, 2 more popped into my head. I'm not worried about having too many things happening at once, I'm writing them down so I don't forget them.

   I can't say how long this goodness will last. I don't know what brought it on, but I am pretty glad it came.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The guilt of life.....

    With everything that's not right in my head, but that I'm struggling to get help with and fix, one of my biggest battles is a seemingly never ending amount of guilt. I feel guilty that Nixon has autism. I feel guilty that I stay home and don't work outside of the home, even though Nixon's in school full-time. I feel guilty that my house is a perpetual mess and that I hate dishes. I even feel guilty for my mental issues!
    Guilt is an emotion I'm very familiar with, in case you couldn't tell.

    Last night, Mac and I were talking about our electric bill. It was $90 for last month. I automatically apologized for it being so high, because I'm awful at unplugging unused electronics. I felt guilty, as if I don't do enough to help us save money.
    Then what bothered me was: Mac never feels guilty for not cooking. I'm the sole person who makes any home cooked meal. Not saying Mac doesn't make food, he's a genius at salads, but if it's cooked/baked/crock potted  I've made it. He does offer to buy take out, when I don't feel like cooking anything, but now that he needs to watch his cholesterol we'll be doing less of that. Which means more meals at home and I'm looking for recipes to help him health-wise.

    I despise how much guilt I have and how little I value what I do. I'm working on my issues, admitting I my flaws is a start. Holding myself accountable by putting it in a public space (like this blog) is one way I'm dealing with my issues head-on.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

This is marriage....

   I've been battling the demons in my head again. Between the bouts of anxiety that have hit me so hard I couldn't make an appointment for a hair cut and the total lack of an real emotional connection to anything outside of my house, I've been a damned mess for more than a couple months. That's not even including the month before school started that saw me having anxiety-induced nightmares I felt like I never really woke up from!
    But, I did finally see my doctor, because I was feeling really close to self-harm again just to feel anything. I didn't realize how low I'd gotten until I was holding a pair of scissors while looking at my thigh, my old and familiar place for cutting. But I saw the scars I have from past bouts of cutting and found myself going "Holy shit! You're fucked up!" and for me to tell myself I'm fucked up...well I'm pretty damned fucked up.
    I was referred to Behavior Health, currently waiting for my referral to be reviewed. In the meantime, I'm trying to stifle the crazypants bitch residing in my head.

    Which, kind of sort of, brings me to the conversation Mac and I had tonight. We're getting very close to starting the joys (trauma?) of house hunting, with intent on buying a house. We have a timeline in place and have started our dream list. We've discussed wants vs needs in a house and are even so far into this that we discuss adopting a dog after we get settled into our home.
    Tonight found us randomly chatting about dogs. I think it started with talking about a friend's puppy, morphing into puppy versus grown dog, and wound up with me on the verge of tears thinking of a dog we don't have and have never even met!
    Neither of us wants a puppy. Puppies are like babies, you have to potty train them and they whine for hours if they're not getting what they want. I don't want another baby and I don't want a puppy. On this, Mac and I agree.
    I said something like "I'd like a dog about 2 years old. Unless there's a dog who is like 15 years old and still in the shelter. Then I'd adopt that one because I think it's sad to imagine a dog spending it's final months in a shelter never having a family and a home to be loved in." Mac replies "We are not adopting an old-ass dog just so it can die a few months later! Not unless we have a ranch."  So there is a way this could happen, see? He totally left a loophole!  I continue, trying to explain that the dog would have to really touch me in order for me to want to adopt such an old dog. Mac counters with "We are not going to be running a nursing home for old dogs to just come and lie around until they die! If we get a dog, it's got to do dog things, like walk outside and move off the sofa!". Of course, that wasn't at all what I meant. "I just think it'd be nice for an old senior dog to leave the shelter and have a family that loves him before he dies, so he knows love and what a family feels like, even if it's just for a short period of time."
    Right about here, I start to feel tears forming, just thinking about a poor old dog in a shelter with no family of it's own.
     Mac sees me wiping the tears and he says "Are you crying over a pretend dog?!", because that's exactly what was happening and he knew it, but I think he was still slightly amazed at the emotional attachment I had formed with this hypothetical senior dog. He then points out that, if I'm this upset over an imaginary dog I'm going to be much worse when/if the real dog came into our lives and died. I get why he'd think that, but I needed to explain "I'm tearing up thinking of that poor old dog alone in the shelter with no family to love it, not because I'm thinking of our old dog's death." Which made no real sense at all, except to me.

    In the end, we stopped talking about dogs and Mac told me I needed to get back on my blog and post this conversation. I'm grateful he is so tolerant and understanding of my mental issues. Sure he laughs at me and tells me to relax or do something when I'm falling into an abyss of anxiety, but he does it with good intentions.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Random conversations can be serious conversations

    Nixon says to me this morning "Mom, do you know where I'm super ticklish?", I guess the usual body parts: feet, tush, belly. He says "Nope. Right here" and starts tickling his groin area.
   Oh sweet chili pepper on the vine!

   Now, there are a couple ways to handle this. Tell him to stop doing that immediately, and make him feel shame for finding pleasure in touching his own body, or simply talk to him about it. Guess what I did?

me: Nixon, I'm glad you found a place that makes you feel good when you touch it on your body but let's talk about this for a minute.
Nixon: Okay. Wanna tickle me?
me: Nixon, that's kind of the thing I want to talk to you about. You should be the only person to tickle your peenie right now. You're big enough that you don't need mom or dad to touch you there, unless you're sick or hurt. Your friends shouldn't touch you there (yet) and unless mom or dad is in the room with you, even a doctor shouldn't touch you there.
Nixon: Oh. OKay.
me: Has anyone ever tried to tickle you there?
Nixon: No.
me: Good. If anyone ever does, you tell mom or dad. Or another adult.
Nixon: But I can tickle it?
me: Of course! I like tickling myself, even though I don't have a peenie. And Dad tickles himself. Lots of people tickle themselves because it feels good, but they only do it alone and not in front of other people (yet). The rules change when you get older, but for now, if you want to tickle yourself you can do it in your bedroom. Just tell us you want some alone time.
Nixon: Okay!
me: Just wash your hands when you're done!
Nixon: Ok-ay!

    Was it a little uncomfortable? Not really. He's 6, he's not really asking about masturbation. He's discovered something that feels good and he wanted to share it with me. That's awesome! That's a great sign about the bond and the relationship I'm building with him. My parenting style isn't for everyone, but I never had open talks with my parents. I was shamed about my body explorations instead of talked to about them. It wasn't helpful. My takeaway from that was to do the exact opposite when/if I became a parent.

   Pretty sure I'm doing exactly that with Nixon. And it feels good.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The importance of raising a son

   Lately there have been tons of blogs about raising daughters. Teaching them to respect themselves, demand respect of boys, focus on education and more things along those lines.

   While I understand all that, there needs to be more about raising sons to respect women and at the same time put less of a focus on being "macho".

   I've been dealing this with the past few days with Nixon.

   Last week, Nixon lost one of his ghost shrimps. He (Midnight) died and Nixon was heartbroken! I found him before bedtime and Nixon almost cried himself to sleep. Poor kiddo. It was his first dead pet. We talked about death. I made sure he knew that even if Midnight was gone from his life, he'll live on in his heart.
   Today in the car, Nixon mentioned Midnight and got quiet. I asked him if he was okay and he says to me "Yeah, I'm okay. I just need to be a big, brave boy." WHAT?!? Where in the hell did he get that idea? I've NEVER said anything like that to him!
   I told him it's okay to be sad and even cry if he's sad and misses Midnight. That being sad and crying doesn't mean he's not brave. I told him even "big, brave men" sometimes feel sad and cry, and it doesn't make him any less of a boy for admitting he was sad over a lost friend.
    It bothered me. It really bothered me that my son thought he had to be brave around me, of all people! Why do boys have to be brave all the time? Why can't they show emotions and be called names? Boy or girl, we're all humans and we have emotions, some are emotions of sadness and they're all normal.

   The second issue I've been facing head-on with Nixon involves other people and respect. It's a tough issue to address. It's hard to know how to bring up the topic, especially with a 6-year old! But, I'm doing it and Mac is helping.
   The issue is really all about consent and respect. We are a very touchy family. We hug, kiss, tickle and "tackle" each other all the time. And sometimes, Nixon doesn't stop when he hears "no" or "stop". I decided this weekend, after Nixon throwing cotton snowballs at me for almost an hour, even after I'd said "STOP!" more than 3 times, that I needed to step up and talk to him about it.
   It happened again, when Mac was tickling Nixon. They were in Nixon's bedroom and I heard Nixon laughing and then he'd say stop, but laugh again. This was the perfect moment! I walked in and asked Mac to stop tickling Nixon and asked Nixon to look at me.
    I tried to keep it simple, "Nixon, you know how Dad just stopped ticking you when you said stop? That's because Dad respects you and your body, when you said stop he listened." I went from there, explaining that he needs to have the same respect for us and everyone in his life, even friends at school. I explained "no" means no and if he hears "no" or "stop" he should stop whatever action he was doing when he hears those words.

   Ultimately, we spend so much time empowering girls an blaming boys biology for their actions, that we forget that, with early talks we can also change boys and help them realize/respect girls. We need to raise boys to see girls as equals and we need to raise girls to believe they are equal to boys!

   For me, it's a struggle. I never heard positive things from either of my parents about myself. My emotional well-being was not considered and I had more than one unhealthy relationship as a result. I love the relationship Nixon and I have. I love that we hug and kiss and play together, because I have few memories from my own childhood and my parents like that with me. I hope that, because we have such a strong relationship, Nixon and I will continue to have these conversations and he'll retain the information and come to me if he has questions. I take every opportunity I have with him, to teach and share. I want him to be a wonderful, kind, caring and respectful person in society, when time comes for him to leave me.